Why Join a Church?

July 30, 2018 at 1:53 pm | Posted in Q&A | 3 Comments
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Question: Do I need to “join a church?” In other words, why would I even consider becoming a “member” when I can attend church without it?

Answer: I don’t know of a Bible verse that says “thou shalt have thy name officially added unto a local church’s membership list.” However, I think the reason we don’t see a command like that is because it would have been almost unthinkable for the men that the Holy Spirit used to write the Bible that someone would become a part of the body of Christ, and then NOT join a local church assembly. The Bible doesn’t command church membership in explicit terms, because it implicitly ASSUMES it for Christians.

Read Hebrews 13:17 and I Peter 5:2 and I Corinthians 1:2 and 5:12 and Philippians 1:1 and Acts 8:1– just to cite a few examples – and you will see the necessity of placing yourself under the authority of local church leadership. How is a pastor supposed to determine who is and who is not a part of the “flock” if people refuse to formally commit? Even in the Old Testament the people of God were listed formally in order to keep track of who was a part of the family of faith. (See Psalm 87:6.)

Additionally, the principles of submission, accountability, relationship, church discipline, and identification as the bride of Christ are all key reasons for joining a local church.

Depraved Clay

July 27, 2018 at 10:31 am | Posted in Jeremiah | 4 Comments
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In Jeremiah Chapter 18 God seems to be addressing in a general way His “right” – His power and authority – to deal with His own creation as He wishes.

The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words.

Jeremiah 18:1-2

“Potter” was a very common occupation in the ancient world, including Judah. Passing by a potter’s house was probably an everyday occurence for Jeremiah.

Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.

Jeremiah 18:3

There was a potter. There were his wheels. And there was the clay.

And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.

Jeremiah 18:4

The outcome of the potter’s work depended on the skill of the potter. With human potters, some are no doubt more skilful than others. This is not an issue with God, the Divine Potter. Obviously, there is no lack of skill in Him.

The outcome of the potter’s work was also dependent upon the quality of the tools of his trade (his wheels). Since the wheels were chosen by the potter specifically for his task, they were probably going to be effective, but there was no guarantee. Tools can get old and worn, and they can break. The selection of tools by a human potter is subject to human error. God may use earthly means to accomplish His work, but He also has the perfect wisdom and knowledge to choose faultless means and “tools” when it suits Him.

The biggest potential for problems in the making of pottery by someone who makes pottery by trade is the quality of the clay. And this is what the Divine Potter points to as the reason for rejecting the first vessel and starting over with a new one. The clay itself was “marred” in Jeremiah 18:4, and this is the same word used to describe Jeremiah’s girdle in 13:7. It was corrupt and ruined beyond usefulness.

The existence of marred clay, though, did not end things for the potter or the wheel. God may transform marred clay, or he may cast it away and select different clay. He will do what is right and good and perfect, in whatever way best serves His glory.

Glad Tidings

July 23, 2018 at 2:41 pm | Posted in Luke | 3 Comments
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And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him,

Luke 8:1

The word translated as “shewing the glad tidings” is euaggelizo, the same word that can be translated as “preach the Gospel.” Jesus and His Disciples were not preaching about how to get nicer material possessions, or how to have a happier marriage, or how to be a better parent, or how to be healed from physical illness, or how to have “your best life now,” or how to “make every day a Friday.” No, they were preaching the Gospel!

Was this an isolated occurrence of evangelism for Jesus during His earthly ministry? Of course not.

And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.

Luke 1:19

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

Luke 2:10

The birth of Jesus was not separate from the Gospel. It was PART of the Gospel. The “peace on earth” that Jesus came to bring was not the kind of peace where people start being more polite to their neighbors. No, it was peace between God and man: God and SINNERS reconciled. Reconciliation is not made between friends or people who are already on the same team. Reconciliation is made between enemies. I’m sorry that your favorite department store or retailer suddenly wants to take “Christ” out of “Christmas,” but I’m a lot more concerned that some churches wants to take the GOSPEL out of Christmas!

The angels preached the Gospel, and John the Baptist preached it:

And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people.

Luke 3:18

Jesus preached it:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

Luke 4:18

And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent.

Luke 4:43

Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.

Luke 7:22

In the books of the Bible which the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to write (Luke and Acts), he makes a point of highlighting the ministry of women, and here we learn that the Gospel ministry had been supported by financial giving from the beginning.

And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.

Luke 8:2-3

What Does it Mean to be “Saved?”

July 19, 2018 at 11:24 am | Posted in Salvation | 6 Comments
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I have noticed that many people have incorrect ideas and general confusion about the term “saved.” To be “saved” in the Biblical sense means to be saved from God’s wrath. God’s wrath is what we deserve because of our sins against Him. To be “saved” is to be “rescued,” or “delivered” from a punishment against which we are helpless. We are saved by God’s grace, meaning that it is a free gift that we do not deserve. We are saved through faith, meaning that it happens when we believe the Truth about Jesus Christ and His Gospel and place all our trust in Him alone. We can add nothing whatsoever to this salvation. It comes to us through Christ, according to His Word, and for God’s glory. For several years I have been asking people if they are “saved” and these are the most common responses:

1. “Yes, I go to church.” But going to church does not mean that you are saved.

2. “Yes, I have been baptized.” But being baptized does not mean that you are saved. Being baptized is something we are commanded to do AFTER we are saved. Baptism is an illustration of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. It does not wash away anyone’s sins.

3. “Yes, I have been saved many times.” But this is impossible. Salvation is a one-time-only event for each person who experiences it. Upon salvation you receive eternal life, and “eternal” life, by definition, cannot be lost or taken away.

4. “Yes, I pray to God every day.” Being saved may occur during a prayer, but the act of praying itself is not the same as being saved.

The Laver as Baptistry?

July 17, 2018 at 3:31 pm | Posted in Q&A | 4 Comments
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Question: Does the washing and purification of the priests in the laver of the Old Testament Tabernacle have any significance for the New Testament ordinance of baptism?

Answer: The Tabernacle laver (made of bronze) is first mentioned in Exodus 30:18. The priests were required to use it to wash both their hands and feet every time they went from the courtyard into the Most Holy Place – upon penalty of death. Its primary function was practical: sanitary hygiene. Many of the priests handled raw meat and bloody flesh. Although “germs” weren’t common knowledge in those days, God certainly knew about their relation to disease, and many of His laws protected the people from things like Hepatitis A (which is easily spread by the failure to wash hands when dealing with shared food preparation) without their knowledge. However, the laver also had a symbolic function. Most people know the expression “cleanliness is next to Godliness.” While this expression is not precisely from the Bible, it does express the idea that holiness is associated with purity. The idea that people would approach the presence of the holy God with dirty hands and feet would be offensive as a reminder of how wrong it would be for sinful people to approach a pure and righteous God. When gentiles would convert to Judaism in the Old Testament, they would be baptized as a symbol of washing away their sin and “uncleanliness.” New Testament baptism is different, though. For Christians, our sin was borne and expiated by Jesus on the Cross, and our baptism, which should be subsequent to conversion, symbolizes our identification with Christ in His death (going down into the water), burial (being under the water), and Resurrection (coming up out of the water).

Faith in God

July 11, 2018 at 9:52 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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In Christian ministry we try to balance correction with encouragement. We definitely want to make sure that, as Christians, we are not provoking God to anger by the hardness of our hearts, which is Bible terminology for a willful and obstinate refusal to obey Him. On the flip side, we should be jumping at opportunities to please God in any way we can, after all He has done for us. Well, if you are someone has trouble with the concept of faith, there is no real nice way to say this: If we want to please God, there is absolutely no way to do it without faith.

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.

Mark 11:22

It is one thing to believe that God exists. It’s a whole other thing to believe that He will do what He says He will do. Christians must believe that He is real; that He can do what He says; and that He will keep the promises He gives to those who obey Him.

In everyday English, if I say, “I really believe in my wife,” you would not take me to mean only that I believe that there is an existential entity named Laura Hampton. No, you would take me to mean that I have faith in her character. I believe she is going to do what she ought to do in a given situation.

Jesus knew God better than anyone knows God. When He told the Disciples, “Have faith in God,” He was telling them that God can and will do what He has said He will do. Vance Havner used to talk about the seemingly contradictory, but actually miraculous, power of faith, by saying that real faith believes the incredible, sees the invisible, and does the impossible. The miraculous is only the miraculous from our point of view. From God’s point of view there is no “miraculous,” because He can do all things (Mark 10:27). From God’s point of view nothing is invisible, because He sees everything (Matthew 6:4). From God’s point of view nothing that He says is “incredible,” because, as the only One Who can not lie, He is completely credible (Hebrews 6:18). As Christians, we must learn to “believe in God.”

The Greatest Miracle

July 9, 2018 at 11:45 am | Posted in Biblical Greats, Luke | 1 Comment
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John the Baptist received from his disciples some news about Jesus’s ministry.

And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things.

Luke 7:18

John’s disciples considered themselves REformers (as opposed to the Pharisees who thought of themselves as CONformers, and Jesus’s disciples who were TRANSformers). John was doubting Jesus because he wasn’t seeing any reformation.

And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?

Luke 7:19

Doubting can be a sign of unbelief, but not always. You can still have faith in God but be perplexed over what He is doing. As Oswald Chambers once said, “Doubting is not always a sign of unbelief; sometimes it’s a sign that a man is thinking.”

Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.

Luke 7:22-23

The Greek word translated as “offended” in Luke 7:23 is skandalizo, from which we get the English word “scandalized.” It was originally the word for the bait in a trap – the enticement to fall into peril. The Person and ministry of Jesus should cause us to stop and think – but not to stumble and turn away. Jesus stressed the miracles He was doing so that John’s disciples could see the “transformation” which happens to individuals rather than the “reformation” which happens to governments.

I think sometimes we do a disservice in making converts believe that they are joining a club rather than entering into a personal relationship with the Savior. Healing the centurion’s servant was a great miracle. Raising the widow’s son from the dead was a great miracle. But Jesus was about to do an even greater miracle. He was about to save a sinner. That’s the greatest miracle because it meets the greatest need: forgiveness. It accomplishes the greatest result: eternal life. It cost the greatest price: the sacrificial death of Christ on the Cross.

The Lord’s Day

July 5, 2018 at 12:43 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
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Among the many sins for which God was allowing the destruction of Jerusalem was the failure of His people to keep the Sabbath.

But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.

Jeremiah 17:27

One of the chief differences between God’s people and the pagans was that God’s people did not do “business” one day out of every week. On the Sabbath day they were not supposed to try to make money or earn a profit. One day out of every seven was set aside as a day of rest to remind them that they were different, and that, despite their labor on the other six days, they really depended upon God for all the blessings of life. Their failure to keep the Sabbath revealed that they did not believe God, did not obey God, and, therefore, did not arrange their lives as if He were real.

For New Testament Christians, observing the Lord’s Day (Sunday, the first day of the week) is the proper way to observe this principle. Sunday worship for Christians is not an optional thing, and don’t fool yourself into thinking that you really believe Him if you don’t arrange your weekly schedule to reflect that He is your Owner and your Lord.

Battling for Glory

July 2, 2018 at 3:13 pm | Posted in I Peter | 5 Comments
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As Christians, our journey on the road to glory begins with our spiritual birth. As we move from glory to glory with our minds “hinged” (not unhinged), and with our eyes fixed on Jesus, Who is both the Author and the Finisher of our journey, we remember that we are sojourners and pilgrims, not homeless wanderers. All through this journey, we are being prepared for glory as we go, and we are moving toward the fullness of glory, even as we make conquests along the way. We are bringing our thoughts into captivity and getting victories over our enemies, but how well the devil knows this tendency of ours to think of the victories as “ours!”

Here is where we have to be in the Word and filled with the Spirit. A victory along the way is not winning the whole war.

Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;

I Peter 2:11

The war is the whole campaign, not an individual battle.

And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. and I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Matthew 16:17-18

Peter would be very displeased with the idea (proffered by many people) that he is the rock upon which the church is built, and the false idea that his successors get revelations from God not found in His Holy Word.

For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

I Corinthians 3:11

Flesh and blood don’t reveal to us that Jesus is the Son of God. We become children of God by grace through faith. Likewise, we don’t fight spiritual battles by flesh and blood. We fight by submitting to God’s Spirit, and we do this by faith.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:

II Corinthians 10:3

This is a paradox. We win battles by surrendering. We do fight battles, but we don’t win these battles by fighting them in the worldly way. Beware of the temptation of Satan. Victory in battle can easily give place to lawlessness, but an attitude of submission does not allow for lawlessness or rebellion.

Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.

I Peter 2:12

Our submission to God will be a witness to unbelievers.

Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

I Peter 1:13

But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;

I Peter 1:15

Having a good testimony in the presence of unbelievers is not the way to bring ourselves glory. It is a way to bring glory to God, and to present a favorable impression of Him in the eyes of the lost for the “day of visitation.”


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